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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

A Ramadan Haiku

jhionis:

Dehydration here
Your head swells like rain on wood
Maghrib, where are you?

So great.

Comments
Through the initial physical challenge of the fast, the soul is agitated and its level of maturity is tested. In this way, the physical fast is a means to an inner, spiritual fast. The fast ultimately reveals to you everything that comes between you and Allah s.w.t., every tendency to break down and lapse out of trust in Allah s.w.t. when placed under pressure. How you respond to this discomfort determines the degree of success of your spiritual fast.
-

Ilyas al Kashani, on the purification of the fast (sawm) during Ramadan

(h/t Maryam Eskandari)

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Eid Mubarak, But When?
by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer
Celebratory preparations are underway for Eid ul-Fitr, a multi-day festival that marks the end of Ramadan. Eid ul-Fitr (also known as Eid al-Fitr) officially begins with the sighting of the new crescent moon. There’s been controversy and confusion leading up to this year’s Eid festivities about when the holiday starts. Some countries like India and Pakistan won’t see a new moon until Wednesday, August 31st while stargazers in North and South America, Europe, and the Middle East will be able to see the sliver of a crescent moon on Tuesday, August 30th. The Saudi Supreme Court made a late-breaking decision that Eid will begin on Tuesday. According to The Washington Post, it’s customary for many countries to follow Saudi Arabia’s example as it’s home to Mecca, Islam’s holiest city. 
Are you celebrating Eid ul-Fitr this year? What do you have planned for your Eid celebration?
About the image: a Thai Muslim man uses binoculars to spot the moon on the eve of the end of the fasting month of Ramadan in Thailand’s southern province of Yala on August 29, 2011. (photo: Muhammad Sabri/AFP/Getty Images)

Eid Mubarak, But When?

by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer

Celebratory preparations are underway for Eid ul-Fitr, a multi-day festival that marks the end of Ramadan. Eid ul-Fitr (also known as Eid al-Fitr) officially begins with the sighting of the new crescent moon. There’s been controversy and confusion leading up to this year’s Eid festivities about when the holiday starts. Some countries like India and Pakistan won’t see a new moon until Wednesday, August 31st while stargazers in North and South America, Europe, and the Middle East will be able to see the sliver of a crescent moon on Tuesday, August 30th. The Saudi Supreme Court made a late-breaking decision that Eid will begin on Tuesday. According to The Washington Post, it’s customary for many countries to follow Saudi Arabia’s example as it’s home to Mecca, Islam’s holiest city. 

Are you celebrating Eid ul-Fitr this year? What do you have planned for your Eid celebration?

About the image: a Thai Muslim man uses binoculars to spot the moon on the eve of the end of the fasting month of Ramadan in Thailand’s southern province of Yala on August 29, 2011. (photo: Muhammad Sabri/AFP/Getty Images)

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Ramadan 2011: The Blessings of a 16-Hour Fast and Mahmoud Darwish’s Poetry

by Ayman Amer, guest contributor

Happy Ramadan(photo: Mohammad Khedmati/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Ramadan this year starts Monday, August 1st. Every year it comes 11 days earlier because Muslims follow a lunar calendar. A lunar year is only 355 days long. So my Ramadan comes sometimes in super freezing Iowa winters and sometimes in hyper sizzling hot and humid summers.

When Ramadan comes in winter. It is easy to fast. Sunrise to sunset is a very short day. When it comes in summer, like this year, oh God helps us. Dawn is about 4:30 a.m. and sundown in Cedar Rapids is about 8:30 p.m. A sixteen-hour fasting day.

But I gladly fast. I am used to it. As Jane Gross said, “We became who we are when we were ten years old.” I started fasting when I was ten. Fasting makes me feel close to Allah. I really feel closest to Allah just as the call for maghrib, or sunset prayers, is heard — just before I take a sip of water and eat one or two dates, as is the tradition.

When I am not working late in a Ramadan afternoon, I read Qur’an in the last hour before maghrib. I feel so light, so alive, astonishingly spiritually energized. A day of fasting washes me inside and out. I make a deliberate tough choice, and I stick with it. I feel blessed with food and drink when I eat a simple meal because there are so many in the world who have no food and or are in a drought. I feel blessed that God taught me how to feel like them and live like them, but I do so by choice. Millions do not have that choice.

At the end of the month of Ramadan, our fasting is not acceptable if we do not offer the obligatory zakat, food for the poor. I remember the words of Mahmoud Darwish, the Palestinian poet:

As you prepare your breakfast — think of others. 
Don’t forget to feed the pigeons. 
As you conduct your wars — think of others.
Don’t forget those who want peace.
As you pay your water bill — think of others. 
Think of those who have only the clouds to drink from. 
As you go home, your own home — think of others — don’t forget those who live in tents.
As you sleep and count the stars, think of others — there are people who have no place to sleep.
As you liberate yourself with metaphors think of others — those who have lost their right to speak.
And as you think of distant others — think of yourself and say “I wish I were a candle in the darkness.”


Ayman Amer

Ayman Amer is an associate professor of Economics at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

We welcome your original reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the Being Blog. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.

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Fasting on Facebook with My Beloved Baha’i Community

by Candace Hill, guest contributor

Baha'i Faith Facebook Page
Screen capture of the Baha’i Faith Facebook page.

Day two of fasting this year, and the egg salad on the sesame bagel was especially delicious this morning. This is the dichotomy of the Nineteen Day Fast — that while we don’t eat or drink from sunrise to sunset, the early morning meals feel more special and dinners more festive.

The Baha’i Faith has its own calendar of 19 months made up of 19 days. As in Islam, one of these months is set aside for fasting, just during the daylight hours. And much like the Islamic month of Ramadan, when it comes time for the sun to set, the evening meal feels like a party, a celebration, a time for truly giving thanks for our nourishment, be it a feast or bread and water.

This is all fine and well if you live in a community, neighborhood, or family where everyone is fasting. Although certainly not the children, the elderly, the sick, the traveler, or the pregnant or nursing mother, fasting is for the healthy, mature adults in the community, if you have a community.

In America, the Baha’i Faith is small in numbers. It is more likely that a college student will be the only one in her dorm who is fasting. The editor at his desk will kindly refuse offers of lunch outings. A coffee break with friends seems strange if you are the only one who is not drinking coffee.

But then there’s Facebook. If you are a Baha’i on Facebook, then you have the bounty of an in-gathering of friends from around the world. Baha’is tend to love conferences, summer schools, study circles, and potlucks. It’s not difficult to amass a list of Facebook friends of all ages and ethnicities, living in an exciting number of time zones.

On Facebook you can worship together, with friends posting excerpts from beloved prayers and meditations. On Facebook you can learn together, with friends posting photographs from Baha’i history. On Facebook you can laugh together, with inside jokes and stories that don’t have to be explained. On Facebook you can sing along, to songs from breaking artists like Andy Grammar to beloved standards by Seals and Crofts. On Facebook you can cook together, sharing recipes and shopping tips. On Facebook you can fast together, encouraging each other to make it through the 3 p.m. nap at the desk, and by cheerfully counting down the days.

Facebook allows the beloved community to chat with each other while working, on a mobile phone riding the bus to work, when the baby is napping, and even late at night when we should have all been in bed hours ago.

Fasting is a religious experience where we practice patience and restraint. It is also a community experience where we support and encourage each other. As enlightenment dawns through prayer and meditation, we reflect that light upon each other. It is lovely to be able to do that face to face. But, I also enjoy that same process on Facebook. The reaching out and sharing feels the same across the miles, now that we have the immediacy of the Internet.

Now, what to make for dinner tonight? My Facebook friends will have some ideas.


Candace Moore HillCandace Moore Hill lives in Evanston, Illinois and has recently published a photographic history of the Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette. She is currently a volunteer community ambassador with One Chicago One Nation, affiliated with Interfaith Youth Core and blogs at Baha’i History in Postcards.

We welcome your original reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the Being Blog. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.

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Can Fear and Burning Unite?

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

"I am more scared than I’ve ever been — more scared than I was after Sept. 11."
—Eboo Patel

Eid al-Fitr and Interfaith Flyer
A flyer calling for an interfaith peace vigil on September 11 lies on a prayer mat at the Eid al-Fitr prayer at the Los Angeles Convention Center. (photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Fear is very real for many Muslims in America today. I don’t think I truly understood how real this elevated level of anxiety is until I read Patel’s quote in Laurie Goodstein’s article in Sunday’s New York Times. He is a man who has spent a good deal of time speaking to all sorts of people and members of religious groups trying to build interfaith dialogue and understanding; I’m sure he’s witnessed some heated arguments and outlandish actions. For him to make this statement is striking, and troubling. We should take heed.

So much is happening right now, and the confluence of popular opinion and current events must be weighing mighty heavily on the minds of many Muslims. There are decreasing favorability ratings of Islam. There are heated protests and debates surrounding Park51, the Islamic cultural center and mosque in lower Manhattan. There are bricks being thrown and a taxi driver being stabbed. And, then, all this crazy media coverage of a Florida pastor pulling a publicity stunt by planning to burn Qur’ans on Saturday.

As to the Dove World church’s plans, there seems to be very little response from other faith leaders and religious communities. Where’s the outcry? But, as The Christian Science Monitor suggests Tuesday in “CNN covered interfaith call to oppose Koran burning. Who didn’t?,” perhaps it was in the lack of live coverage of events like this press conference at the National Press Club in which dozens of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim leaders stood together while calling for a united front against Qur’an burning and other aspects of Islamophobia. The Dove World church’s fiery intentions are brighter than the stars in the night skies. Or are they?

I’ve noticed myriad secular and faith leaders, people who write and blog and tweet, vehemently protesting and uniting behind their Muslim brothers and sisters. They act not by decrying but by reading, reading the Qur’an itself — even at the holiest of times. On the heels of Rosh Hashanah services, the Velveteen Rabbi writes:

"In response to the rising tide of Islamophobia and especially to those who intend to burn the Qur’an on 9/11, my teacher Rabbi Phyllis Berman suggested that as Jews gather to worship on Shabbat Shuvah, we might consider reading from the Qur’an as a gesture of respect toward our sister Abrahamic tradition. At my synagogue, we typically gather for Torah study after services, around 11am. On 9/11, our text for sacred study will come from the Qur’an."

And the Undercover Nun continues:

"On Saturday, September 11, 2010, I’m reading the Quran so that I can be a better American and a better Christian. Won’t you join me?"

Many more noble efforts like this are taking place. Look around. And as we non-Muslims try to pay attention and express our sympathies, we ought to remember that yesterday was the last day of Ramadan. It’s a time of celebration and thankfulness. It’s Eid.

When Sayneb, a young Somali woman and co-worker came through the office the other evening, we got talking about Ramadan, next year’s dog days of July and fasting, and current events, to which I gestured, “Boy, these are crazy times.”

She paused. Then she looked kindly at me, smiled softly, and said with no uncertainty, “These are good times.”

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Download

Day 13 - Nadia Sheikh Bandukda: “Breaking Fast in the Garment District”

Revealing Ramadan: 30 Days, 30 Voices [mp3, 2:31]

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Nadia SheikhOur 13th voice is Nadia Sheikh Bandukda. She is a self-described “by-choice conservative Muslim female born in America, who studied in Saudi Arabia and Teaneck, New Jersey.” She recently graduated from college with a degree in political science and now works at a non-profit focused on immigration issues, and is at work on her first novel. Her Ramadan memory is set in New York’s garment district, in a furniture store owned by her father.

Check back on this blog each day or on our Facebook page to hear a new voice in our “Revealing Ramadan” series. If you’re the on demand type or simply need a more automated form of listening, we’ve produced a special podcast feed that’s available now. Oh, and a special show too!

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Reflections of a Fair-Weather Faster

Nancy Rosenbaum, associate producer

Monday was Yom Kippur and this year I decided to fast. Most of my life I’ve been a fair-weather faster. My immediate family in New Jersey gathers each year for a meal to mark Rosh Hashanah, but Yom Kippur and the breaking of the fast that follows it hasn’t been part of our tradition.

When I moved to Minnesota, I was touched by how Jewish friends — and sometimes strangers — reached out to include me in their holiday gatherings. This year, my colleague Molly asked if I wanted to break the Yom Kippur fast at her parent’s house. She promised there would be a lot of food and she did not disappoint.

Celebrating the Jewish holidays away from home has meant experiencing them anew — with different foods, people, and rituals. I felt motivated to fast this year knowing that, by sundown, I would have a welcoming place to go and break my fast with others who had done the same.

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A Day of Living Ramadan-ically Mitch Hanley, senior producer
Ever since we started interviewing Muslims for our Revealing Ramadan program and podcast, I’ve been curious about what it would take to fast from dawn to dusk. The clarity that one attains while fasting, which many guests had talked about, sounded intriguing to me.
Feruze Faison mentioned a Turkish doctor who theorized that, when you eat, all of the blood rushes to the stomach to aid in digestion, so when you fast, the blood can be used by other parts of the body, e.g. the brain. I’ve never fasted before and was excited to try. But how does one prepare for it?
I’ve been told what the requirements were for Ramadan: you get up in the morning before the sun rises and eat a meal. You go back to bed and get up when you normally would, or later, if possible. Your day consists of no food or water until the sun goes down, at which point you break your fast (often with a date; I had none) with what is called an iftar dinner.
Since I was doing this on my own, I was a little worried that I would eat the wrong things at my iftar. Hilarie Clement talked about her first Ramadan when she was in Dubai — breaking the fast with greasy pizza resulted in a night of vomiting. I wasn’t sure I was ready, but it was this past Tuesday night that I realized I only had until Saturday to attempt my day-long Ramadan fast. But first I had a bit of research to do.
I checked the local news weather page to find out when the sun was rising: around 6:30. Ok, so I set my alarm for 5:30 with the fallback plan of turning it off and going back to sleep, should I lose interest while drowsy. Did we have any food in the house for breaking the fast? Well, no, but that could be dealt with later. At this point it is 11:30 pm and I decide I should get some sleep. I would be attempting this fast with less-than-adequate amount of rest — brilliant planning.
5:30 AM: my phone alarm wakes me up and l leap out of bed leaving my wife and dog sound asleep. A quick check of the fridge for protein results in cream cheese toast and several scoops of vanilla yogurt. Water: drank two large glasses, which is more than I drink on a normal day (I know, bad!). Fully invested in my experiment, I updated Twitter to start off the day:

5:53 AM Attempting a day-long fast today: just got up to eat protein-rich breakfast with large amount of water.

I returned to bed to my wife, half-awake, asking, “Why are you fasting, are you converting?” No, not converting, just curious, I guess. I got up at my normal time and went to work. What follows are my tweets (updates) for the remainder of the day.

9:26 AM last tweet made no sense, so let me try again: I’m attempting a sun-up to sun-down fast, so I got up before dawn & had breakfast & lunch.


11:34 AM starting to get hungry, hell, I AM hungry & Wednesday is “church lunch” day where the church next door serves a fab hot lunch.


12:44 PM hard to remember that I can’t go get some water when I’m thirsty. This experiment makes me think about those w/o H20 everyday. 


1:17 PM In denying myself food, I’m realizing how easily I take it for granted, yes, even the food court fare. Never imagined that.


3:31 PM there’s saltwater taffy in the kitchen @ MPR, in case you wanted some. I observed that they are yummy vanilla & brown flavors.


5:53 PM In Minneapolis the sun sets at or around 7:20pm these days, in case you were curious. I was merely curious, so I checked.

At this point I knew I had no “real” food in the house and my wife wanted to watch ”her shows”: So You Think You Can Dance and Glee, so I made the decision to take myself out to dinner down the street and run an errand to Target.

7:06 PM Multi-packs of Little Debbie snack cakes are on sale for $1.25 at Target, if you’re curious. I’m just sharing my observation.

Killing time on Lake Street, watching the sun go down in my rear-view mirror, I snapped a photo before the sun plummeted into the horizon.

7:12 PM Watching the sun kiss the horizon and Carly Simon’s “Anticipation” comes on the radio—I’m not kidding! 


7:25 PM Breaking the fast at a great local spot—The Craftsman. The day of fasting was incredible. If you haven’t tried it you should!

I sat at the bar and a glass of water was placed before me. I looked at it with amazement, still holding off, as if the safety were still on. I took a drink and it was intensely thick, it was a meal in itself. The water had substance, it was savory, it felt as though I could go back out the door and fast for another couple of hours. Eventually my meal arrived and afterward I stopped by Dairy Queen for dessert, went home, and collapsed in my bed.
For a guy who doesn’t really have any regular rituals and feels a bit at a loss for it, the entire day was full of wonder, but also a bit of regret. The saying about absence making the heart grow fonder came to life for me. I realized that there is food constantly around me, whether it be the sweets around the office or the tomatoes that I am able to freely pluck from the garden out back, there is nothing special about the grazing or harvest. I am hungry (or not) and I put something in my mouth. Done. What does this mean? How am I honoring my body with what I am putting into it, and how am I honoring the craft and creation of the food or water? And with a day-long absence of food, I really became aware of just how thoughtless my food intake has been. I also am prepared to grant that a lot of aspects of life might be done thoughtlessly. What would it take for me to realize the richness of those aspects?
I did not perform the prayers throughout the day and my iftar did include a beer, so it was not really a day of adhering to all of the requirements of the faithful. But it was a truly eye-opening experience and one that I hope to do again next Ramadan. Insha’allah, I won’t be doing it alone!

A Day of Living Ramadan-ically
Mitch Hanley, senior producer

Ever since we started interviewing Muslims for our Revealing Ramadan program and podcast, I’ve been curious about what it would take to fast from dawn to dusk. The clarity that one attains while fasting, which many guests had talked about, sounded intriguing to me.

Feruze Faison mentioned a Turkish doctor who theorized that, when you eat, all of the blood rushes to the stomach to aid in digestion, so when you fast, the blood can be used by other parts of the body, e.g. the brain. I’ve never fasted before and was excited to try. But how does one prepare for it?

I’ve been told what the requirements were for Ramadan: you get up in the morning before the sun rises and eat a meal. You go back to bed and get up when you normally would, or later, if possible. Your day consists of no food or water until the sun goes down, at which point you break your fast (often with a date; I had none) with what is called an iftar dinner.

Since I was doing this on my own, I was a little worried that I would eat the wrong things at my iftar. Hilarie Clement talked about her first Ramadan when she was in Dubai — breaking the fast with greasy pizza resulted in a night of vomiting. I wasn’t sure I was ready, but it was this past Tuesday night that I realized I only had until Saturday to attempt my day-long Ramadan fast. But first I had a bit of research to do.

I checked the local news weather page to find out when the sun was rising: around 6:30. Ok, so I set my alarm for 5:30 with the fallback plan of turning it off and going back to sleep, should I lose interest while drowsy. Did we have any food in the house for breaking the fast? Well, no, but that could be dealt with later. At this point it is 11:30 pm and I decide I should get some sleep. I would be attempting this fast with less-than-adequate amount of rest — brilliant planning.

5:30 AM: my phone alarm wakes me up and l leap out of bed leaving my wife and dog sound asleep. A quick check of the fridge for protein results in cream cheese toast and several scoops of vanilla yogurt. Water: drank two large glasses, which is more than I drink on a normal day (I know, bad!). Fully invested in my experiment, I updated Twitter to start off the day:

5:53 AM Attempting a day-long fast today: just got up to eat protein-rich breakfast with large amount of water.

I returned to bed to my wife, half-awake, asking, “Why are you fasting, are you converting?” No, not converting, just curious, I guess. I got up at my normal time and went to work. What follows are my tweets (updates) for the remainder of the day.

9:26 AM last tweet made no sense, so let me try again: I’m attempting a sun-up to sun-down fast, so I got up before dawn & had breakfast & lunch.

11:34 AM starting to get hungry, hell, I AM hungry & Wednesday is “church lunch” day where the church next door serves a fab hot lunch.

12:44 PM hard to remember that I can’t go get some water when I’m thirsty. This experiment makes me think about those w/o H20 everyday.

1:17 PM In denying myself food, I’m realizing how easily I take it for granted, yes, even the food court fare. Never imagined that.

3:31 PM there’s saltwater taffy in the kitchen @ MPR, in case you wanted some. I observed that they are yummy vanilla & brown flavors.

5:53 PM In Minneapolis the sun sets at or around 7:20pm these days, in case you were curious. I was merely curious, so I checked.

At this point I knew I had no “real” food in the house and my wife wanted to watch ”her shows”: So You Think You Can Dance and Glee, so I made the decision to take myself out to dinner down the street and run an errand to Target.

7:06 PM Multi-packs of Little Debbie snack cakes are on sale for $1.25 at Target, if you’re curious. I’m just sharing my observation.

Killing time on Lake Street, watching the sun go down in my rear-view mirror, I snapped a photo before the sun plummeted into the horizon.

7:12 PM Watching the sun kiss the horizon and Carly Simon’s “Anticipation” comes on the radio—I’m not kidding!

7:25 PM Breaking the fast at a great local spot—The Craftsman. The day of fasting was incredible. If you haven’t tried it you should!

I sat at the bar and a glass of water was placed before me. I looked at it with amazement, still holding off, as if the safety were still on. I took a drink and it was intensely thick, it was a meal in itself. The water had substance, it was savory, it felt as though I could go back out the door and fast for another couple of hours. Eventually my meal arrived and afterward I stopped by Dairy Queen for dessert, went home, and collapsed in my bed.

For a guy who doesn’t really have any regular rituals and feels a bit at a loss for it, the entire day was full of wonder, but also a bit of regret. The saying about absence making the heart grow fonder came to life for me. I realized that there is food constantly around me, whether it be the sweets around the office or the tomatoes that I am able to freely pluck from the garden out back, there is nothing special about the grazing or harvest. I am hungry (or not) and I put something in my mouth. Done. What does this mean? How am I honoring my body with what I am putting into it, and how am I honoring the craft and creation of the food or water? And with a day-long absence of food, I really became aware of just how thoughtless my food intake has been. I also am prepared to grant that a lot of aspects of life might be done thoughtlessly. What would it take for me to realize the richness of those aspects?

I did not perform the prayers throughout the day and my iftar did include a beer, so it was not really a day of adhering to all of the requirements of the faithful. But it was a truly eye-opening experience and one that I hope to do again next Ramadan. Insha’allah, I won’t be doing it alone!

Comments
Download

Revealing Ramadan: Samar Jarrah - “Fasting in a Place Like No Other”
» download [mp3, 4:28]
Trent Gilliss, online editor

Samar JarrahOne of the more difficult decisions of turning a group of 16 interviews into a limited-run podcast series within 24 hours was deciding who should be the voice to open the first day of Ramadan. Samar Jarrah eloquently captured a sentiment that we heard from many foreign-born Muslims who immigrated to the U.S. — that being a Muslim in America is to practice her faith, to fast, to pray, in a way like she would not have in Kuwait or Jordan or Egypt.

And, she expresses such joy and delight in discovering Islam anew. You can hear it in her tone. She’s still excited, and it’s been 20 years since she moved to the U.S. Hearing her story about rushing back from the Middle East to celebrate Ramadan in her adopted country makes me proud to be an American; but, she also makes me realize how tiring it must be to answer the same questions over and over again — about the veil, Islam as a violent faith, and so on.

We’ll be releasing her complete interview and essay in the coming weeks. Until that time, please enjoy this charming woman and her Ramadan reflection.

Revealing RamadanRevealing Ramadan [podcast]

iTunes RSS

So many wonderful Ramadan stories. Only 1 hour of radio. Let them sit + collect dust? No! But what to do… Hmmm… Create a new project: Revealing Ramadan. 1 story per day for the month of Ramadan. And, share your story and images.

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Of Veggie Omelets and Cognitive Dissonance

Shiraz Janjua, Associate Producer

I woke up this morning around 4:45 a.m. to eat before my day of fasting. To keep myself from passing out into my leftover veggie omelet from the night before, I turned on the TV. It was about 4:55 a.m. The first thing that confronted me as I scooped food into my mouth was the destruction of Haiti. People standing in mud, broken. Helicopters dropping off bags of food, long lines, the complete absence of buildings. The government has apparently stopped counting the death toll. Without numbers, the reporting on Haiti is going to end up even further down from where I found it: the last report of the hour.

Following the report, the beautiful, dark-haired host smiles with her moist lips and signs off, wishing me a good day. A good day? Are you mad?! I’m ready to intentionally deny myself food to try vainly to understand where I stand in this world. As I’m eating, there are people on the other side of the glass who are traumatized after three (or four?) hurricanes. And the host has the gall to wish me a nice day? Did she even watch the segment that just aired? The cognitive dissonance was a bit much, but there I sat with my leftover veggie omelet, my juicy organic yellow peach, my full glass of milk, and my disgust of the human race, cursing at the screen. I heard Heschel blaring at me, at the newscaster: “Some are guilty, but all are responsible.”

At 5:30 a.m., I went back to bed, to catch a few more hours of sleep before heading off to work. I lay there wishing for a red cape and blue tights and the chance to fly across the continent and do something. But you never see Superman fighting systemic poverty, or downgrading hurricanes by flying in a counter-Coriolis trajectory. He fights Lex Luthor.

It’s the afternoon now. I’m still hungry, but come 7:23 p.m. tonight, I’ll eat. I can. Yet today, my life feels like the platitudes of that news anchor. I saw something horrible, yet I got on with my day.

In conversations I’ve had with friends on this subject, the answer is invariably that it’s my duty to live my life more fully and more appreciatively, that the more tempting response of sullenness isn’t going to help anyone. Instead, bring your earnestness into whatever else you do. Working here is important to me because I can integrate my skills and energy toward something that is, in my view, part of some larger solution. And that’s good. Still, every time my cheeks stick from thirst, they drag my thoughts back to this morning, faithfully as a dog on a leash.

Comments